How to Raise a Child

His crystal hazel eyes were getting abashed with every blink of his dark-brown lashes. His infantile emotions were still too discontinuous to surface and a few obvious ones were getting lost in those creases of innocent expressions on his face. His brown silken hairs flounced a little with the blow of air from the door that waved the stillness of that room as his mother stepped out.

“Hello Ray! Can you help me solve this puzzle?” The child’s behavioral therapist asked him. She was a young lady in her mid-thirties. She was wearing a blue knee-length dress with a sheer white blazer. Her blonde wavy hair was long. She dainty tucked her tresses behind her right ears. She looked at the jigsaw puzzle pieces that were scattered on the table.

Ray looked at the fluffy cloud painted wall and the starry ceiling above. He strolled towards that table. He began to sort the puzzle pieces. He was efficient enough for a six year old. He segregated the corner pieces first, then the bordering ones and lastly the ones that will come in the center.

The therapist marked his problem solving ability.

He passed on those pieces one by one to her to assemble the puzzle.

“Wow! You are so smart Ray, even I wasn’t able to solve it.”

Ray posed a constant and neutral expression, he passed on the subsequent pieces.

“So you like making friends Ray?” The therapist tried to engage him in a conversation to understand what he had been thinking lately.

He nodded.

“Would you make friends with me?” The therapist made a simpler smile to match up to his tensed innocence.

Ray looked up to the question in her eyes. “I am sorry but I don’t make friends with adults.” He again bent his head to look down at the puzzle. 

“Why? Don’t you like grown-ups, has anyone of them harmed you?” The therapist was now anxious to know what mental tussle that little brain was subjected to? He had turned belligerent enough to be disciplined by even the school teachers and so he was referred to her by the school staff.“No, no one has ever harmed me. I even like grown-ups. It’s just that I couldn’t understand what they really mean.” Ray was effortlessly solving the puzzle as he replied.

“What do you really mean when you say that you couldn’t understand them? She asked.

“I think they are really confused. They are confused when they talk to us but they expect us to respond with clarity.” Ray looked up to the therapist face. He was surprised to find the same plain smile on her face and no confusion as what he had expected.

“Yeah! We are all so confused, you are right.” The therapist shrugged and took the puzzle piece that he gave. “Did you feel bad when your mother told me that you don’t listen to anyone and that you don’t even follow what you have been told in school?

“No, I didn’t but I don’t know why they all have been lying about it?” He responded.

“Are all of them lying?” She asked casually.

“Yes, because I listen to and follow them even where they don’t ask me to. As I said… Confused.”

The therapist giggled. “Would you share any such confusing incidence with me?”

“Well, it all started from the day my teacher taught me that, ‘What we do, counts more than what we say.’ After learning that in school I got back home and asked my mother if it’s correct and she said: ‘Yes, actions count more than words.’ I waited for my dad to come back from the office and when I asked him, he also said: ‘Yes, your teacher is right, we learn more from actions than from words.’ And so I decided to watch them and learn from their actions.” Ray passed the pieces of the puzzle to her.

After a little while Ray stepped out of the room. He saw his parents. They sat over a bench positioned on the right side of the waiting room. They wanted to hear what the therapist had to say at the end of the session. “She wants to talk to you.” He uttered.

“Of course she would. You wait here, we will be back in a few minutes.” His father replied.

They entered the room. The therapist was sitting there, the pieces of that puzzle were scattered on the table.

“Would you please help me with the puzzle?” She asked the anxious parents.

They looked at each other and without giving much thought to her statement they went ahead to help her. They looked at the picture of the puzzle and began to haphazardly arrange the pieces.

“Ray was right, we all are too confused.” The therapist murmured.

“What? I am sorry. He has started to lie. Even in school his indiscipline and stubbornness is getting unbearable for the teachers. He doesn’t listen to anyone of us. I don’t know how to raise him the right way, I just can’t think of where it all went wrong?” His mother’s lips shivered as she uttered the last line, her eyes blinked faster than usual.

“I know exactly where it all went wrong.” The therapist replied. “It went wrong in the very question you asked me, or the questions you have been asking yourself.”

“What do you mean?” The father asked.

“The question shouldn’t be, ‘How to raise them?’ But the apt answer to it is: ‘Raise yourself as a parent.’ 

The therapist’s reply left Ray’s parents stunned.

Little Ray patiently explained the therapist the dilemma his amorphous mind was subjected to; to follow what his adults say or to follow what he saw them doing or how he observed them behaving. While it was perfectly alright for any adult to throw anger or tantrum, little Ray was forbidden to even transpire any such negative emotions. Although it was obvious for the teacher to lose patience on frolics or even repeated questions of her students, it was disapproved for a student to imitate a similar behavior. His explanation was simple and effortless only if someone was willing and patient enough to listen. He was precisely following his parents and teachers when he was throwing anger over things that were not going his way or when he was losing patience upon being asked the same question over and over again. That why he wasn’t able to take a no, because he had seen those adults around him getting nasty with a simple no.

Ray was right when he said that adults are confused, we all are. We set such high standards of morality for our children which are even difficult for us to follow. And hence, we leave our children in dichotomy of thoughts, ideas and ideologies. Kids learn from what they see, not from what they are taught and once they grow to witness such extreme divergence between what they are taught and what they actually see then their trust on the words you say begins to fade. Sooner you notice that they feel comfortable in disobeying you because now for them your credibility or trustworthiness has diminished. Ironically, it will be too easy for you to point their defiance but what your understanding will surely surpass would be a check on your actions which resulted in this changed mindset of your child.

With his ill-articulated words, Ray very explicitly explained something to that behavioral therapist which changed her stance forever. She understood that there was nothing wrong in Ray’s behavior but there was something grossly wrong in the behavior that he was receiving.

‘It’s easy to point a dark black blob of extreme negative traits within us but it’s extremely difficult to see those thin grey lines we possess against the white parenting background.’

Praachi Verma

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